Elon Musk, the charismatic CEO of Tesla (TSLA) – Get Tesla Inc Report admits it himself: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine changed him. He is no longer simply a businessman leading different companies, but also a boss who knows that he has a responsibility, that of using all his weight in the conduct of world affairs.
“With knowledge, products and services, Elon Musk is almost a strategic weapon in modern warfare. How do you see your role in that context?” Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of Business Insider’s parent company, Axel Springer, asked Musk during a recent interview.
“I think I can be helpful in conflicts,” the tech tycoon responded. “I try to take a set of actions that are most likely to improve the probability that the future will be good. And obviously, sometimes I make mistakes in this regard.”
“I do whatever I think is most likely to ensure that the future is good for humanity. Those are the actions that I will take.”
‘This Is Crazy’
The billionaire whose personality has gone far beyond Silicon Valley and auto industry circles has become very vocal about the Ukrainian crisis. He was one of the first multinational CEOs to publicly show his support for Ukraine, defying traditions that companies remain neutral on geopolitical and political issues. In doing so, Musk helped inspire other CEOs to follow suit.
A little over a month after the start of Russian fire and bombing in Ukraine, the list of major companies announcing their support for Ukraine has continued to grow. Beyond that, Musk went so far as to propose a duel between him and Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the conflict. Moscow has still not responded to the proposal.
Many might have expected it to stop there, but Musk seems to think that’s not enough. Without calling for regime change in Russia, he urges NATO governments not to let Putin win.
“Volodymyr Zelenskyy put it very clearl,” Döpfner said, referring to the Ukrainian president. “I need ammunition, not a ride”. Europe, particularly Germany, struggled a long time. How about the American government?”
“I think the American government has done more than people may realize,” Musk responded. “But it is just not been very public.”
And then he makes a statement that few, if any, other CEO would ever venture to make.
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“But it is important to do something serious. We cannot let Putin take over Ukraine. This is crazy.”
President Biden appeared to call for Putin’s ouster in a speech Saturday, saying the Russian president’s invasion of Ukraine had ignited a “new battle for freedom” between democracies and autocracies.
Musk Is Ready for Russian Cyberattacks
In this interview, Musk agreed that Putin is a dictator and explained that he was convinced from the start that the Russian president clearly had plans to annex part of Ukraine and that nothing would prevent him from doing so.
“My best guess was that he would seek to capture the Eastern third of the country. Frankly, if you just listened to the rhetoric, then it is clear that he was going after at least portions of Ukraine that have a significant percentage of Russian speakers,” the tech tycoon said. “He did that already in Georgia,”, another neighboring country of Russia.
Two days after the unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine, Musk made the decision to send Starlink terminals, the satellite internet service offered by SpaceX. The billionaire explained that it was not really a surprise because he had prepared very early to help.
“We did think that Starlink might be needed, and we took some preemptive actions to ensure that it could be provided quickly”, Musk said. “When the request came, we acted very rapidly.”
“It is worth noting that the satellite internet connectivity of Ukraine was taken offline by a cyberattack on the day of the invasion permanently. The cell towers are either being blown up or they are being jammed. There is a major fiber backbone that the Russians are aware of. It was quite likely that they will sever that fiber link. This would leave Ukraine with very few connections open. So Starlink might be, certainly in some parts of Ukraine, the only connection,” Musk explained.
He also reiterated that SpaceX was prepared to ward off Russian cyberattacks against its Starlink terminals, which are used by Ukrainian government officials for communications. Putting Starlink out of the game would allow Russia to master the communication war.
“If you attempt to take out Starlink, this is not easy because there are 2000 satellites. That means a lot of anti-satellite missiles,” Musk said. “I hope we do not have to put this to a test, but I think we can launch satellites faster than they can launch anti-satellites missiles.”